Monday, November 2, 2009

Classic Poetry: An Illustrated Collection selected by Michael Rosen

This is an ambitious collection of poetry from over 30 poets (mostly male) who wrote in English between the 17th century and the mid-twentieth century. They range from Shakespeare to Yeats to African-American Langston Hughes to Australian Judith Wright. It is an introduction aimed at children in elementary school with lovely illustrations by Paul Howard. I thought some of the poems, like Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Kubla Khan and Lord Byron's The Destruction of Sennacherib were rather difficult for a young age group, but adults reading to children can answer questions that arise. Sharing will bring pleasure for all ages. I was glad to come across favourites like Blake's "Tyger! Tyger! burning bright"; Browning's "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways"; Poe's "To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells / From the bells, bells, bells, bells, / Bells, bells, bells" (I adore the rhythm in that!); Lear's The Jumblies; Rossetti's "Who has seen the wind? / Neither I nor you"; Carroll's "How doth the little crocodile"; Wilcox's "Laugh, and the world laughs with you, / Weep, and you weep alone"; and Frost's "But I have promises to keep, / And miles to go before I sleep." A grounding in classic poetry will also help children to get full enjoyment from other English literature, right up into and through their adult lives, since so many writers are inspired by these works.

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